This is a serialization of the new book written by Carl Flowers, owner of Silveus Plantation, the subject of “Groton’s Anonymous Mistress.” The 300-year-old home is accessed by Kemp Street near the boundary of Groton and Dunstable.
By Carl Flowers
Another display of Yankee prejudice occurred when Catherine Fitzpatrick married Henry R. Hartwell. He lived on Chicopee Row just a few yards from where it intersected Raddin Road. They were both 24 years old when they married on September 26, 1874. The wedding was just 30 days before Catherine delivered her first child. The delayed wedding doesn’t appear to be a Fitzpatrick problem.
Instead, the problem was with the Hartwells. The wedding took place at St. Mary’s Church in Ayer, Massachusetts, but only the Fitzpatricks were present. Not a single Hartwell cared to witness the event. It’s not known if Henry or his parents caused the delay; however, it would seem to be his parents since they didn’t attend the wedding. They probably didn’t want their son marrying an Irish lassie. Moreover, he had to sign a promise about his children being reared in the Catholic Church. Henry died at home on November 12, 1880 at only 30 years of age. Eight years later, on October 9, 1888 Catherine married William Tracy at St. Mary’s in Ayer. Shortly afterwards the couple moved to Nashua, New Hampshire.
Even though the Fitzpatricks endured acts of prejudice, they still participated in town activities. James was an early member of the Groton Grange which was organized on October 18, 1873. He became a member on January 6, 1874. James and his wife Elizabeth (Catherine’s parents) were actively involved with the Grange from the day they joined until they became so ill that they could no longer participate. He even became the Master of the Groton Grange in 1887. Both James and Elizabeth did readings, told stories, sang and chaired various committees to coordinate Grange activities. They even hosted a meeting or two at the Mistress. More interesting than all of these activities, James was a wizard at playing the violin and must have been a source of entertainment at Grange meetings. Other Grange positions that James held included being the Chaplain and Overseer. In fact, the Groton Grange felt so fondly about James and Elizabeth, it presented them with a silver pitcher and goblet to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
Aside from the activities that were strictly social in nature, James did work for the town. In 1866 James cut 50 cords of wood valued at $100, or $2 a cord. Some of it was delivered to School House No. 7, on Chicopee Row where his children likely attended, but School House No. 8 is an other distinct possibility. In 1867 he received $6 for delivering wood to school house No. 7 and an additional $4.15 for taking care of the building. The last deliveries of wood seem to have been made in 1872 at a cost of $18.75.
Beginning in 1885 James was making $15 a year as one of the town’s registrars of voters. This continued into 1889. The significance of this is the fact that James Fitzpatrick had an association with the town’s leaders. Being a registrar of voters required the support of a majority of the town’s selectmen, some of whom were also members of the Groton Grange. As one of the registrars, James Sr. would have to know who was entitled to vote. That involved knowing a voter’s place of birth, the street on which they lived and their occupation. Registrars had to be sure new voters could write their name and read at least three selected lines from the constitution. Then, of course, they had to post notices of when elections were going to be held.
There’s also a secret side to James Fitzpatrick Sr. He was an abolitionist, and he turned the Mistress into a station for the underground railroad. Runaway slaves were harbored at the Mistress on their journey from the south into Canada. A secret passage under the house that leads to the Mistress’s center chimney leaves little room for speculation. This kind of activity was against the law. The rage this behavior must have kindled in the hearts of slave owners had to be enormous due to the significant financial loss that was suffered. The repercussions to Fitzpatrick would have been severe had his secret been discovered by certain federal authorities. U.S. Marshals were supposedly on the lookout for runaway slaves.